We sat down with Eric Croeser, our Director of Partnerships in Mining, to chat about how mines currently manage safety and incident control and how IoT can help ensure intervention before the Bird Triangle fills up because, as we all know, the Bird Triangle theory always rings true.
Not sure what we’re talking about?
Eric, how do mines manage and record safety incidents at the moment?
Mines, as they stand use a few different systems to manage the various aspects of operational safety. The most common threads through them all are people and paper.
The current risk matrix and process set up for the mining industry all starts with a baseline assessment to identify risks and then put systems and processes in place to minimise and manage them.
A baseline risk assessment is followed by an issue-based risk assessment which identifies incident-specific issues, and then broken into mini risk assessments. This should be a closed loop that highlights issues, and affects the changes in issue based risk assessments and, ultimately, the baseline assessment.
Currently, mines rely on people to conduct these assessments and update systems and logs.
Within that feedback loop, the process that should be dynamically updating the issue and baseline risk assessment is the mini risk assessment – the exercise that people do constantly – because that is the thing that always changes.
What are the stumbling blocks with this set up?
Within that short interval change process, if you’re relying on people you’re not getting the actual data. You’re getting biased opinions and run the risk of having paperwork being filled out without actual assessments being done. You don’t know if the paper-based exercise has been completed. And to what degree it was done accurately.
That’s the current status quo.
Where to from here?
When you start going digital, pulling information from the machines and moving away from discretionary to non-discretionary, you know that what you’re getting in, is true.
You have more control over the time frame between event and response to event and start building up that process. Together with that, real-time data gives you a digital audit or evidence trail so that not only can you reconstruct events in real time so that they’re not affected by biases, but you can rebuild the entire event or process.
You’ll be able to start cutting down time frames, gaining access to real, unfiltered data and allowing scenarios to be reconstructed so that your operations can start building a risk approach based on actual events.
What would you put down as the biggest benefit of digitalisation?
In short – accurate data.
Let’s look at the Bird Triangle.
In mining, we always look at fatalities free rates through production shifts – these are done on a fatality rate per 1000 man hours worked. We always look at lost time injuries, decapacitating injuries and minor injuries. But where we fall short is in accurately tracking the near misses and unsafe acts, the actions that make up the base at the bottom of the Bird Triangle. How do you know how many times you almost had an accident?
The base incidents and near misses or collisions, excessive machine use or damages, PLCs integrated into different systems showing how many times conveyer belts fall out on pull keys – those are the events that are likely caused by someone doing something unsafe. In a digitalised word, you can start to dig down for more information.
These incidents are tracked manually. Think of the paperwork and time required to report on nearly hitting someone, as well as the ease of recording this whilst under the pressue of needing to perform. Then consider an employer who downgrades performance ratings based on incidents being filed. Would you track them all accurately, even if no-one is injured.
In a majority of mines, inspections are likely mostly paper-based versus being conducted digitally, in real-time, in-shift. Again, even the pieces of paper can’t identify the stuff that never happened.
So, does this mean that the Bird Triangle theory goes out the window?
No. On the contrary, more accurate recording in the bottom two portions of the triangle ensure that you are able to intervene prior to the Bird Triangle filling up to LTI / Fatality.
As soon as you have a digital trail, you can start to accurately track and predict incidents.